It has been a while since I have seen an issued patent that made me want to jump out of my skin, but earlier today as I was sitting at my desk working, the patent search firm I use — Walsh IP — contacted me with a truly bizarre patent that they stumbled across.
Take a look at U.S. Patent No. 8,240,155, which relates to a method of presenting beer. Actually, the invention is a method for serving beer from a font and includes chilling a beer glass and then dispensing the beer into the glass to create a head of foam on the beer.
Claim 1 of this actually issued patent recites:
1. A method for serving beer from a font, comprising the steps of: chilling a container for beer to a temperature of at least -5° C.; and, filling the container with the beer from the font, the beer being delivered from the font at a temperature above the freezing point of water for creating a drink having a head of foam and crystals of frozen beer formed below the head of foam after filling of the container with the beer.
What is worse is that this patent application was allowed without ever going to final rejection. The applicant filed, made some minor amendments to certain claims and then the patent examiner relented and issued the patent. This is absolutely insulting and really should be investigated. The Patent Office is issuing patents on a method of pouring cold beer into a cold glass while they bury certain software innovations under a sea of unrelenting rejections.
Lounge chair and cooler combination, US Patent No. 7,475,889
It is still extraordinarily hot throughout most of the United States today. Some relief is on the horizon for tomorrow, at least for the greater Washington, DC and Northern Virginia area, with even more relief next week. After getting up early to go for a long walk with my 5 pound weights in each hand (yes, trying to lose weight) and it was 88 degrees first thing in the morning I knew I had to return to the topic of cool or cold inventions.
Alright… alright… I know I’m a geek, a nerd and extremely corny! But after the article from yesterday about Cool Wearable Innovations, I couldn’t resist writing an article titled “Cooler Innovation.” That double entendre lured me into its clutches. You see, these are “cooler” innovations because they all relate to the field of keeping perishable items and beverages cool, not because they are “cooler” in a hip sort of way.
The idea for the article initially came to me yesterday when I was searching for “cool” or “cold” inventions that will help keep people comfortable during the extreme heat we are facing in the United States. I realized after a while I was leaning toward wearable innovations, but the personal air conditioning system (U.S. Patent No. 7,246,505) made the cut. It was the only one that was not wearable, at which point the double entendre first occurred to me. Yes, I crack myself up… you know in that not funny at all patent attorney kind of way!
Chicago has set a new record with the third straight day of 100+ degree heat. Temperatures in Illinois are expected to hit as high as 104 degrees before relief finally arrives on Sunday. Washington, DC hit 100 degrees today, and is expected to be even hotter on Saturday, with Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia all expecting 100+ degrees for Saturday. See Bloomberg. The DC area has also had its ninth straight day has had heat in excess of 95 degrees. Indeed, it is fair to say that the eastern half of the United States is experiencing prolonged heat like few can ever remember.
With that in mind I thought it might be an interesting time to take a look at some of the innovations that attempts to beat summer heat have lead to over the years. The theme here is wearable coolness.
So sit right back in your chair, hopefully in a heavily air conditioned office or home, and get in touch with your inner inventor. These individuals came up with something patentable, and necessity is certainly the mother of innovation. Admittedly, some are more practical than others, but who knows, perhaps this prolonged heat agony will lead to a who new crop of gadgets associated with keeping one cool and refreshed during the dog days of summer.
From U.S. Patent No. 737,371 for a Jack-O'-Lantern Helmet.
When it comes to patentability, safety is not necessarily a major factor in the equation. The Patent Office only cares if an invention is sufficiently inventive. Whether or not it’s safe is a superfluous question. Common sense, the market, and trial lawyers can make sure the products on our store shelves are sufficiently safe.
And yet I’m always amazed at how cavalier inventors can be about the safety of their inventions — especially inventors from the past. For example, most patents for cradles from the 1800s could have been more aptly titled “System and Method for Killing a Baby Through Violent Shaking.” Pretty much any factory machine, farm implement or laundry wringer patent, for that matter, was just as likely to pull off a hand as serve its intended purposes.
Take old inventions using fire. Until relatively recently, geologically speaking, fire was humanity’s one “system and method” for heating or lighting things up. Fire has been our constant companion since our ancestors emerged from the paleolithic era and decided to go everywhere. The only problem with fire is that it can burn things other than the thing you want to burn…like you!
As a patent searcher from time to time in my daily activities I will stumble across a patent that is, shall we say, rather unique. Just in time for the gifting season for Moms and Dads I happened to stumble across a gift suitable for both Mothers Day and Fathers Day. Yes, this gift would kill two birds with one stone, perhaps quite literally.
In keeping with the age-old tradition of inventing by juxtaposition (see, for example, hamburger earmuffs), this highly functional and aesthetically pleasing invention “Cigar Lighter and Perfumery Ejector Combined,” which was patented on August 31, 1886, and combines the lighting of cigars with the dispensing of perfume. So if you’re a cigar and perfume enthusiast on a budget, it’s nice to know you have the option of getting a device that addresses all your cigar-lighting and perfume-spraying needs in one. And as the inventor Henry Munk of Fremont, Ohio points out, you can now put perfume on your cigars “to enhance the odor and consequent value of the cigar.”
In something of a switch for Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), the company known for such popular devices as the iPad, iPhone and the iPod, has obtained a patent on a glove. Yes, the company known for pushing the envelope with high tech gadgets has entered the clothing market with a patented glove. Not just any glove mind you, but rather one that will be sure to help you keep your hands and fingers warm while still being able to use your favorite smart-gadgets.
The patent issued to Apple earlier this week was U.S. Patent No. 7,874,021, which is titled “High tactility glove system.” Don’t let the title fool you though. I turned to the patent to see what kind of high-tech glove gadgetry Apple had come up with and to my surprise what was invented was a glove with openings at the top of the index finger, middle finger and thumb so as to allow skin to actually be able to touch the screen of your iPhone, iPad or iPod.
Two months ago I wrote about one of my favorite patents — The Animal Toy — which is U.S. Patent No. 6,360,693. See Patent on a Stick: Learning from the Animal Toy Patent. Shortly after writing that article, which was not intended to poke fun at the Patent Office but to merely teach a point relative to claim drafting, I received an e-mail from Stephen Kunin, who is a partner at Oblon Spivak, LLP. Steve wrote to me indicating that this patent was reexamined by the Patent Office and none of the claims exited reexamination. This in and of itself may not be very odd, but something didn’t seem quite right.
From Design patent D297,249, titled: Turkey hunter's safety placard
Earlier today President Barack Obama carried out a traditional Presidential duty of pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey. This year there were two pardons handed out by the President, one to the National Thanksgiving Turkey Apple, and one to his understudy Cider. Apple and Cider will live out their days at Mount Vernon, home of our nation’s first President, George Washington. I can assure you that in the Quinn household there will be no pardoning of turkeys, and we will consume copious amounts of the creature as we celebrate, give thanks and watch football.
The pardoning of the Presidential turkey caught my imagination as I was trying to figure out what holiday patents to profile for this Thanksgiving, something I always try and do whenever possible. So what better thing to focus on than on turkey patents, and there are many of them. I easily found multiple dozens of turkey callers and all kinds of turkey transportation devices used by hunters to carry their prey home, but these were the ones that really caught my attention for one reason or another.
TheAnimal toy patent, US Patent No. 6,360,693, is one of my favorite patents to discuss. The first thing to observe here is that on March 26, 2002, the United States Patent Office issued a patent on a what can only be described as a stick. In support of this conclusion, one need only look at the picture. Yes, I know that the drawings do not define the exclusivity provided, and only the claims define the scope of the right provided to the patent owner, but this is not a case where clever claim drafting and placement allowed a crafty patent attorney to get away with claiming something fundamental and overly broad. Rather, this is a case where the picture and everything in the application is directed to a stick and the examiner seems to have missed that fact. But like all patents the pieces and parts of the patent are present and provide a good learning opportunity given the invention is easy to understand. The fact that it is also rather humorous makes it all the more likely the lesson will stick — pun intended!
This is straight from the “you have to be kidding me” file, and for more reasons than immediately are apparent simply by looking at the invention. This invention is a doll urn, which allows for the storing of a human’s or a pet’s ashes. The invention comprises a doll body, a doll head, a doll top, and a voice recorder for recording or playing a message. Disposed in the doll head is an internal compartment, wherein a secure container for holding the ashes may be inserted into the internal compartment via an aperture on the doll head. The doll top comprises a stopper for fitting into the aperture so as to prevent ashes from spilling out of the internal compartment. In one particular version the name of the deceased is imprinted on one foot and the birth date and date of death are imprinted on the other foot (see Figure 6). As strange as this invention seems, the truly sad aspect is that it was granted in just over 10 months! So while some inventors must wait many years (i.e., 3, 4, 5, 6 or more years) this particular inventor was able to file and obtain a patent on her invention in about 10 months. While I am happy for this particular inventor, allow me to notice that something is dramatically wrong at the Patent Office if this invention can get treatment so quickly and commercially viable inventions that could form the basis for investment and business growth languish for years.
I have not been doing as many obscure patents as I once did, but I have been increasingly hearing from inventors that they miss this feature because humorous patents coupled with a story provide a good learning opportunity. That being the case, I will try and write more about obscure patents and couple them with lessons.
This invention relates to outerwear or rain gear in the form of a cone, which is made of a substantially waterproofed material. Substantially waterproof? Who wants to buy a “substantially waterproof” raincoat? Notwithstanding, the use of that term is fine in patent law as long as it provides some relationship that can be appreciated. I don’t want to get too caught up here with legalities and miss the point that this patent covers a cone shaped garbage bag with arm holes and a face hole. In terms of commercial viability the patent explains that just about anyone would be inclined to have a spare disposable raincoat in their pocket rather than carrying around an umbrella all day long. Again, doesn’t a garbage bag work for this? Furthermore, isn’t everything disposable on some level?
Perhaps I am missing something, but I do not see a huge market for animal chastity belts. We have a dog, and we are dog lovers. We enjoy walking through pet stores and spoil her rotten. I cannot say that I have seen an animal chastity belt in any of my trips to any pet store. Maybe there is an underground market for these devices, and maybe the inventors get rich and are laughing all the way to the bank. Nevertheless, I must observe that it seems extremely likely that the inventors of these and many other similar devices are failing to ask the all important and critical question — is there a market for your invention and can you make money? In the case where there is a crowded field, and believe it or not animal chastity belts would qualify as a crowded field, it is essential for inventors to ask themselves (and to be honest with themselves) with respect to whether their innovation presents advantages significant enough over what is available in the prior art and those products already on the market. It might be that your invention works, but that no one would be interested in buying it.